When David Moyes hit out at the Premier League a couple of weeks ago, suggesting a “conspiracy against United” in terms of our opening run of fixtures in the new campaign (I think we all know that run now: Swansea, Chelsea, Liverpool, Palace, City), he may have been continuing a fine tradition of controlled paranoia which Fergie used to use as a tool for constructing that famous Old Trafford siege mentality. But Moyes might have been better served keeping his powder dry for a complaint about our draws in the domestic cup competitions.

On the league fixtures, Moyesy contended that the Premier League might have wanted to make it a little harder for United this year, following the ease by which we won the competition last term. He said: “I find it hard to believe that’s the way the balls came out of the bag, that’s for sure.”

It’s even more difficult to believe our “luck of the draw” in the cups though, and prior to the draw for the League Cup being made last night it was absolutely predictable that the Reds would pull one of the Big Five (or is it Big Six now?) Weight of history told us we’d get Chelsea, or city. Statistics, pure mathematics decreed that we’d get Arsenal, or Spurs. Or Liverpool, as it turned out.

No right-thinking United supporter was surprised. Yet the neutral fan and for the ABU, there is a willful blind-spot as far as United’s rotten run of luck in terms of domestic cup draws is concerned. They still spout the myth of United and our easy draws, which has, to be fair, been in evidence in some of our European draws. But at home? No way. Those ballbags have been far from kind to us, and have surely helped contribute to the fact that this year marks a decade since we won the FA Cup (in the decade before that we won it four times).

So are the draws manufactured in order to ensure United don’t keep winning the competition? Probably not, but it will be interesting to see whether Chelsea, who in the last decade have made the FA Cup their own – well, they need to, others win leagues – begin to get more difficult draws soon.

Anyway, like Kurt Cobain used to say, just because you’re paranoid don’t mean they’re not after you. So here’s how those draws have been “after us” over the past few years.

2013-14 League Cup
Liverpool (Premier) H

2012-13 League Cup
Newcastle Utd (Premier League) H
Chelsea (Premier) A

2012-13 FA Cup
West Ham (Premier) A
Fulham (Premier) H
Reading (Premier) H
Chelsea (Premier) H

Last season we drew no opposition outside the Premier League in six draws in two competitions (and we’d in fact already been drawn against Manchester city in the FA Cup semi-final before we were knocked out in a quarter-final replay against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, making it SEVEN draws against Premier League opponents on the trot.)

2011-12 League Cup​
Leeds Utd (Championship)​A
Aldershot (League Two)​A
Crystal Palace (Championship) H

2011-12 FA Cup
Man city (Premier) A
Liverpool (Premier) A

Okay, so we drew Leeds of the Championship in our opening round of the League Cup, but come on. We drew them away and they regard us as their greatest rivals. This wasn’t – no disrespect intended, your Yeovil or your Bristol City or your Barnsley). And we drew League Two’s Aldershot in the next round too before losing to the Championship’s Zaha-inspired Crystal Palace in the Quarters, but our draws in the FA Cup more than made up for these aberrations. First we pulled the noisy neighbours city, away. Then, after dispatching them, we were rewarded with a tie against our even more bitter rivals, Liverpool. Again away from home. Two harder games you could not envision. And in total that season, we had five draws, and four of them were away from home.

2010-11 League Cup​
Scunthorpe Utd (Championship) A​
Wolves (Premier) H​
West Ham (Premier) A​

2010-11 FA Cup
Liverpool (Premier) H
Southampton (League 1) A
Crawley (Conference) H
Arsenal (Premier) H
Man city (Premier) N

In 2010-11 United actually drew three sides from outside the Premier League, however our ties against Premier League opposition still outweighed them, and our run to the FA Cup semi-finals included matches against three of our biggest rivals in Liverpool, city, and Arsenal. We only missed out on Chelsea!

2009-10 League Cup​
Wolves (Premier) H​
Barnsley (Championship) A
Spurs (Premier) H
Man city (Premier) H & A
Aston Villa (Premier) N

2009-10 FA Cup
Ahem… Leeds (League 1) H

A more varied bag of draws here, however in our run to lifting the League Cup, we only drew one side outside the Premier League… Perhaps that was a good job though as we showed our worst display in many a season when a lacklustre United fell at the first hurdle in the FA Cup to bloody Leeds of all teams.

2008-09 League Cup​
Middlesbrough (Premier) H​
QPR (Championship) H​
Blackburn (Premier) H​
Derby County (Championship) A & H​
Spurs (Premier) N​

2008-09 FA Cup
So’ton (Championship) A
Spurs (Premier) H
Derby (Championship) H
Fulham (Premier) H
Everton (Premier) H

Another even-looking season of draws, however if you look closely at the League Cup draw, we see that this is, including Liverpool this season, this makes it four out of six ties against Premier League opposition.

2007-08 League Cup​
Coventry City (Championship) H​

2007-08 FA Cup
Aston Villa (Premier) A
Spurs (Premier) H
Arsenal (Premier) H
Portsmouth (Premier) H

An embarrassing home defeat to Coventry notwithstanding, this is another season which might have the more paranoid amongst us twitching uncomfortably. A full set of Premier opponents in the FA Cup, including both North London sides relatively early in the competition…

League Cup​
Crewe (League 1) A​
Southend (Championship) A​

2006-07 FA Cup​
Aston Villa (Premier) H
Portsmouth (Premier) H
Reading (Premier) H
Middlesbrough (Premier) A
Watford (Premier) N
Chelsea (Premier) N

Another FA Cup season full to bursting with matches against Premier League sides. Another League Cup season not to write home about.

2005-06 League Cup​
Barnet (League 2) H​
West Brom (Premier) H​
Birmingham City (Premier) A​
Blackburn (Premier) A & H​
Wigan (Premier) N

2005-06 FA Cup
Burton (Conference) A
Wolves (Championship) A
Liverpool (Premier) A

United manage to get through two draws in the FA Cup without being matched with Premier League rivals, however then we pull Liverpool. Including this season’s League Cup, this is the fourth time we have drawn the Scousers in the early rounds of competition in nine seasons.

2004-05 League Cup​
Crewe (Championship) A​
Crystal Palace (Premier) H​
Arsenal (Premier) H​
Chelsea (Premier) A & H​

2004-05 FA Cup
Exeter (Conference) H
Middlesbrough (Premier) H
Everton (Premier) A
Southampton (Premier) A
Newcastle (Premier) N
Arsenal (Premier) N

Those Exeter and Crewe draws aside, another full bag of Premier League opponents in these games. Indeed, after United drew consecutive non-league sides – Exeter and Burton – in 04-05 and 05-06 respectively, it was almost as though the draws were trying to over-compensate…

2003-04 League Cup​
Leeds (Premier) A ​
West Brom (Championship) A​

2003-04 FA Cup
Aston Villa (Premier) A
Northampton (League 2) A
Man city (Premier) H
Fulham (Premier) H
Arsenal (Premier) N
Millwall (Championship) N

Another Premier League side in United’s opening rounds of both competitions.

In 2002-03, United drew Premier League West Ham in the third round, followed by top-tier Arsenal in the fourth round. In 2001-02, United drew Arsenal again, this time in the opening round of the League Cup, and achieved the double-whammy by drawing Premier League opponents in the FA Cup too, in Aston Villa. 2000-01 was kinder, seeing us draw Championship opposition in the opening rounds of both competitions. But in 1999-2000 the balls were at it again, pairing United with Premier League Aston Villa in the first round we could enter of the League Cup.

That was the year, of course, that Manchester United DEVALUED the FA Cup, by withdrawing from the tournament in order to participate in the Club World Championships in Brazil, following our Champions League victory in Barcelona. The fact that SINCE then, we’ve been pretty much mauled by the balls, is surely no coincidence.​

Conclusions – Obviously, you have to expect to draw more Premier League opposition as each competition progresses, which means that our total number of Premier League opponents in both competitions is obviously weighted.

However the sheer number of first round draws against top tier opposition is staggering. In the FA Cup, we have drawn Premier League opponents in the past three seasons, and in 8 of the past 13 seasons. There are 64 teams in the third round of the FA Cup, of which 30% are from the Premier League, and yet those balls keep working against us.

Our figures for the fourth round FA Cup draws are even more stark. In this round there remain a number of lower league sides for us to pull, however in 6 of the past 8 seasons United have reached this stage, they have met Premier League opposition.

In order to put this into perspective, last year’s FA Cup finalists Manchester city have drawn the Championship’s Watford, Leicester, Middlesbrough, and Notts Forest in the past four third rounds and Chelsea, who (coincidentally?) have the best record in the cup competitions during this time have drawn given-up-before-it-kicked-off’s Southampton (they won 5-1), bankruptcy’s Portsmouth (4-0), can’t be bothered’s Ipswich (who they trounced 7-0), Watford (who they bullied to 5-0), and Southend (who the Stamford Bridge club needed a replay to dispatch).

Even Liverpool have had it easier, sneaking past minnows Mansfield last year with a sneaky Suarez handball. The year before that they faced struggling Oldham, but the year before that an early Berbatov penalty knocked them out at OT in King Kenny’s famous(!) return to the Merseyside club. A year before that the Championship’s Reading saw them off 2-1.

Indeed, the only time any of our rivals ever seem to draw a Premier League club in the early rounds of either competition, you can pretty much guarantee that Premier League club will be us.

Paranoid, yes?

But are those balls wonky, or weighted? For sure.

The song goes we’re Man United, we do what we want, but much as these ties against rival Premier League opponents are mouth-watering, and much as we like to believe we are confident going into them – we’re not arrogant, just better – surely what we really want now is to reach another FA Cup final. It’s been beards.

These continually poor draws are getting right in the bloody way. And they are doing nothing for our early season nerves. Moyes – time for another complaint!